Veteran documentary filmmaker Loni Ding passed away in February. Her career as an independent filmmaker, university professor and television producer spanned decades. Her numerous film and television projects garnered over 15 awards and fellowships. Best known for the award-winning documentary, “The Color of Honor: The Japanese American Soldiers During World War II”, her film that contributed to convincing government officials to pass the 1988 Civil Liberties Act which granted financial reparations to those remaining Japanese American survivors of WWII internment camps. The Center for Asian American Media will create an award in her honor.
Though based in the Bay Area, Ding traveled up and down the West Coast and across the country researching her film projects. To this day, she is still remembered fondly by people in the Northwest.
I met Loni Ding only once when she was researching and filming for her project “Ancestors in the Americas” series (it remains unfinished due to lack of funds). She interviewed Ron Chew, Bea Kiyohara, Connie So and myself. Though our meeting was brief, I came away impressed by her fierce commitment, energy and passion for what she did. Below are remembrances by others.
Local photographer/writer/camera man Dean Wong worked briefly with Loni in San Francisco on a public television series for children when he was in his 20’s. He had this to say.
“I worked with Loni on her ‘Bean Sprouts’ children’s TV series,” recalled Dean Wong. “She had an amazing amount of energy and was always coming up with new ideas for the show. Lori was a mentor, who taught me the value of using my media skills to benefit the Asian American community.”
Photographer/light and sound design person/camera man/ writer John Pai vividly recalls his encounters with the filmmaker.
“Loni was a very deep soul,” said Pai. “She was always searching for the truth. Digging deep to uncover the obvious but making sure that as the layers of the onion are peeled back that the convoluted becomes obvious and irrefutable. She brought Asian American artists and media professionals together so that the common path can and would emerge. An angel of sorts to point the way if one were open to the messages contained within the koans. Her energy was inexhaustible. If you were holding the camera, be ready for the ape to run out before you can change the battery. She wanted to get it right, to set the record straight, to have the voices heard … she will be missed.”